Finding the perfect climbing shoes that you can break in comfortably is pretty challenging. Still, when we get one, most of us wear that pair on our hikes.
That’s why their favorite pair of shoes easily gets dirty and becomes full of mold and debris. As a result, we start hating them because of the dirt and odor they produce.
Well, you don’t need to hate your favorite climbing shoes, if you know how to clean climbing shoes properly. To be specific, the process is very easy and handwashing is the best method you should try to clean your climbing shoes.
Even though there are many different ways, most manufacturers recommend hand washing the shoes. If you want to learn how to do that, I can help.
In this article, I’ll help you learn the best way to clean your climbing shoes and how to do that when you are on the mountain.
When Should You Clean Your Climbing Shoes?
Before you learn how to clean your climbing shoes, it is essential to know when you should clean them and when you can consider them.
Generally, it is suggested to clean the shoes after each session. It is essential to remove dirt, sweat, and chalk buildup inside your shoes. For these issues, those climbing shoes can be excessively dirty or smell bad.
If you notice visible dirt, mud, or stains on your climbing shoes, you should clean them as well as possible. It will help maintain their performance and prevent the dirt from further affecting the shoe’s materials.
Also, when your climbing shoes develop an odor because of sweat and bacteria buildup, you should give them a wash. If you detect an unpleasant smell, it’s a sign that they need cleaning and deodorizing.
Over time, the rubber on climbing shoes can lose its stickiness because of dirt, oil, and dust gathered inside them. When you notice a decrease in grip or the shoes feel less sticky on the wall or rock, you should clean them.
Even if your climbing shoes don’t dirty or smell bad, it’s still beneficial to clean them periodically to remove any accumulated grime or oils that can affect their performance.
You should clean them once every two to three months even though you didn’t use them once.
What Do Popular Manufacturers Say About Cleaning the Climbing Shoes?
Most climbing shoe manufacturers recommend hand-washing climbing shoes rather than using a washing machine. La Sportiva recommends avoiding machine washing and advises climbers to clean their shoes by hand using a soft brush, water, and mild soap if necessary. They also recommend air drying the shoes away from direct heat sources.
Scarpa is another popular brand that recommends using a soft brush, water, and mild soap to clean the shoes, and air dry them away from heat and light sources.
Five Ten also advises against machine washing climbing shoes and instead suggests cleaning them by hand using a soft brush, warm water, and mild detergent just like La Sportiva and Scarpa. As usual, Evolv follows them too and advises them not to wash their shoes in a washing machine. Instead, they recommend cleaning them by hand and drying them in the open air.
As we see, hand washing and air drying are the preferred methods recommended by climbing shoe manufacturers to maintain the quality and performance of the shoes.
We also agree with them because this method has almost no risk of destroying the material or the shoe construction.
The Best Method to Clean the Climbing Shoes
Just as we learn, the best method to clean climbing shoes is through hand washing. Hand washing is very effective, and there is almost no risk of damaging or breaking down your shoes.
Also, most climbing shoe manufacturers recommend giving their products a hand wash instead of washing them in other ways. However, here are the steps you can follow to hand wash your climbing sneakers.
Step 1: Wipe Down the Exterior
First, you have to take a damp cloth or sponge and wipe away any dirt, mud, or debris from the outside of your climbing shoes.
Make sure to remove surface-level grime and visible dirt. But don’t use too much pressure that can tear the materials off.
Step 2: Prepare a Soapy Solution
Now, fill a basin or sink with lukewarm water and add a small amount of mild detergent or specialized climbing shoe cleaner. Then create a soapy solution by gently mixing the water and detergent.
Here, you should not use any strong detergent or bleaching powder. These types of cleaning agents with harsh chemicals can damage your shoes.
Step 3: Clean the Shoes
At this point, simply submerge your climbing shoes in the soapy solution. Here, you can use a soft brush or cloth to scrub the shoes. Make sure to pay extra attention to the rubber soles and any dirty areas.
Also, be gentle to avoid damaging the shoes or their delicate components.
Step 4: Rinse Thoroughly
Once you have finished scrubbing, rinse them under cool running water. Try to remove any soap residue. Also, ensure that all traces of soap are washed away.
Step 5: Air Dry
Now, squeeze out the excess water from your climbing shoes gently. Make sure not to twist or wring them to get rid of all the soaked water. It can damage their shape and also destroy the compact bond of the threads.
However, after squeezing extra water, stuff them with crumpled paper towels or newspaper. And then, place them in a well-ventilated area that is away from direct sunlight or heat sources. Finally, let them air dry completely.
After the shoes are completely dry, you should store them in a dry place. It is always suggested not to store them in a damp or humid environment. Remember that an environment like this can lead to the growth of mold or mildew.
How to Clean the Dirty Soles of the Climbing Shoes?
Before you learn the other methods, it’s essential to learn how to clean the sole specifically. Sometimes, the entire shoe is not dirty but the sole is not clean at all. Sometimes, the sole is so dirty that it can’t be cleaned even after you hand wash it.
In such cases, you have to clean the sole separately. Also, it helps to maintain optimal performance and grip on the wall or rock. However, here are a few easy steps you can follow to clean the sole.
Step 1: Remove Loose Dirt
Before cleaning, you need to get rid of all the loose dirt from the sole. For that, you have to tap them together or use a soft brush to just rub the sole. If the loose dirt is not dry, it may not come out. In such a case, leave them and start cleaning the sole.
Step 2: Wipe the Sole With a Damp Cloth
Now, you have to take a damp cloth and wipe down the rubber sole of your climbing shoes properly. In the place of the damp cloth, using a song would be better.
However, you can use plain water or a mild soapy solution if the dirt is stubborn. Make sure to scrub the rubber sole gently to remove dirt, chalk, and any other residue.
Step 3: Soft-bristled Brush
If the dirt is tucked on the rubber sole, you need to use a soft-bristled brush to remove them. You can also use an old toothbrush to scrub the rubber. Never ever use a brush that is too stiff or abrasive. It can damage the outer layer of the rubber or simply damage the shoe’s construction.
Step 4: Rinse Off
After that, you need to rinse the sole under cool running water. It will help to remove any remaining dirt and soap residue. Ensure that all traces of dirt and detergent are washed away.
Step 5: Dry the Shoe
Now, simply pat the sole with a clean and dry cloth to remove excess water. As I said before, make sure not to twist or wring them at all.
When the excess water is absorbed, let them air dry naturally in a well-ventilated area. It’s better not to dry them under direct sunlight.
The soles of your climbing shoes must be clean. However, before you go for the next hike, use a soft brush to brush the soles. It will help to remove any leftover dirt and dust and also, help you to get better friction on the climbing surface.
Can I Clean My Climbing Shoes in a Washing Machine?
According to most climbing shoe manufacturers, it is not recommended to clean climbing shoes in the washing machine. Eventually, they advise against it because of the potential risks of damaging the shoes.
Still, many professional climbers find it convenient to machine wash their shoes. So, if you need to clean the shoes in the machine, you can follow the instructions below.
Some climbing shoe manufacturers advise against machine washing, so first make sure that your shoes are allowed to have a machine wash. Generally, shoes with synthetic materials can be washed by machines.
- To start, you have to brush off any loose dirt or debris before washing them.
- To protect the shoes, make sure to put them inside a mesh laundry bag or a pillowcase and secure it tightly.
- Use a small amount of mild detergent, specifically designed for delicate fabrics, in the washing machine.
- Choose a gentle cycle and use cold water to minimize any potential damage to the shoes.
- Do not use hot water or the spin cycle. It can affect the shape and glue of the shoes.
After washing them properly, you have to remove the shoes from the laundry bag and let them dry in the open air. Make sure not to use a dryer or direct heat sources. Remember that they can warp or damage the shoes.
How to Clean Climbing Shoes When You Are Hiking Outside?
Cleaning climbing shoes while hiking is possible even if you have minimal resources. There is actually no specific product you’ll need to clean the shoes that you may not have right beside your hand.
However, here are the simple steps you can follow to clean your shoes when you are already on the go.
- First, you need to find a water source. Try to look for a stream, river, or any clean water source nearby.
- Use a small brush or your hands to remove any loose dirt, rocks, or debris from the climbing shoes.
- Now, dip the shoes in the water source or pour water over them to wet the entire surface.
- After that, use your hands or a soft brush to scrub the shoes. Try to focus on areas with visible dirt or stains. Also, avoid using harsh scrubbing techniques to prevent damaging the shoes.
- Rinse the shoes with clean water. Make sure that all soap or dirt is removed.
- Now, shake off excess water and find a shaded area to let the shoe air dry naturally. Don’t place them under direct sunlight or near a heat source, like a campfire.
- If available, stuff the shoes with newspaper to help absorb moisture and speed up the drying process.
Once dry, check the shoes for any remaining dirt or debris. If needed, repeat the cleaning process or address specific spots with a gentle brush. Also, store the climbing shoes in a breathable bag or container to prevent them from getting damaged during the hike.
Undoubtedly, the best way to clean your climbing shoes is to wash them by hand using mild soap and water.
Also, it is always recommended to air dry them instead of using a hair dryer or drying them under direct sunlight. Even though it is possible to clean them in a washing machine, you better avoid it.
It’s time to leave. Make sure to take care of your favorite climbing shoes properly so that they last longer. And also, clean them in the right way. Thank you for your time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I dry my climbing shoes in a dryer or under direct sunlight?
No, you should avoid drying climbing shoes in a dryer or under direct sunlight. High heat can warp the shoes or affect the glue. Instead, air dry them in a shaded area or use a fan to speed up the drying process.
How can I get rid of the odor from climbing shoes?
Odor in climbing shoes is common because of sweat and bacteria. To combat the smell, you can try using odor-neutralizing sprays, baking soda, or specialized shoe deodorizers. Additionally, ensure your shoes are fully dry before storing them.
Can I use regular laundry detergent to clean climbing shoes?
It’s best to avoid using regular laundry detergent to clean your climbing shoes. It can be too harsh for the shoe materials. You should try mild soap, specifically detergents that are recommended for delicate fabrics or soft clothes.